Siding with environmental groups, Attorney General Xavier Becerra has pushed back on an effort to raise Shasta Dam, going against a project supported by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a friend of the administration, as well as President Barack Obama.
Raising the dam by 18 feet is estimated to deliver an additional project 80,000 acre-feet of storage at a cost of $1.4 billion, which would be benefit and be paid in part by the large Westlands Water District. Feinstein worked with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, to author a bill in 2016 that last year provided $20 million to the Shasta Dam project.
Becerra in May asked for a preliminary injunction to block Westlands from performing an environmental impact review on the project, claiming the district is a state entity interfering with a federal project and it would violate environmental protection laws. A Shasta County judge in July agreed to halt the study.
In a statement issued earlier this week, Westlands countered that Becerra had agreed to a study “in the abstract,” rather than the standard public review process, and that no state agency has found the river would incur negative environmental impacts from the project.
“The Attorney General obtained this injunction against Westlands for the express purpose of excluding the public and other agencies from the District’s analytical process,” said Westlands General Manager Tom Birmingham. “In more than 35 years of experience working on issues related to CEQA, I am unaware of any court ever enjoining the preparation of an environmental impact report.”